Columbia School Board discusses Mill Creek redistricting

Monday, November 11, 2013 | 11:16 p.m. CST; updated 6:48 a.m. CST, Tuesday, November 12, 2013

COLUMBIA — At its Monday meeting, the Columbia School Board discussed the effects of changing boundary lines to ease overcrowding at Mill Creek Elementary School.

Some parents are worried about splitting up siblings between schools, said Peter Stiepleman, assistant superintendent for elementary education at Columbia Public Schools. Some parents also think moving students from school to school could impact their children's education, uprooting them from the friends and teachers they've formed bonds with.

Stiepleman made his comments as he reported to the board on his discussion with parents and teachers of Mill Creek students on Oct. 29.

The board is still deciding if rising fifth-graders will be transferred out of Mill Creek to alleviate overcrowding. For example, a family with a student heading into fifth grade and a student in a lower grade might have children in different elementary schools depending on whether all rising fifth-graders stay at Mill Creek.

The district is considering two temporary changes to boundary lines for Mill Creek for the 2014-15 school year. The changes are intended to relieve overcrowding until a new elementary school opens on the southwest side of Columbia in 2016.

The proposed boundaries would move students in neighborhoods near Scott and Forum boulevards from Mill Creek to either Russell Boulevard, Grant or Paxton Keeley elementary schools.

Stiepleman said he doesn't think moving students between schools will necessarily be a problem. There is a difference, he said, between children who move to a new school at the beginning of the year and those who move multiple times during the year.

He presented options for the board to consider to ease transition problems that might occur because of new boundaries:

  • Put children who transfer from one school to another in class together.
  • Ask school counselors to design welcome plans for transferring students.
  • Schedule school visits for transferring students.
  • Allow students to attend summer school at their new schools before the 2014-15 school year begins.

When the new southwest elementary school opens, Stiepleman said there could be an option of keeping siblings together at Paxton Keeley instead of moving one child to the new school.

"We feel like we're in a pretty good position to say that, 'If your family wants to stay at Paxton, you can stay at Paxton,'" Stiepleman said.

The board expressed concern that the more extensive boundary changes planned for the 2016-17 school year would make it difficult to keep younger students with their older siblings at Paxton, Russell and Grant.

Board members said they would like to consider creating a more consistent boundary review plan for the future, rather than addressing problems as they come along.

The board hopes to make a decision on boundary changes by December or January at the latest.

Other issues discussed

  • The district is still accepting nominations for new school names. The nomination process ends Nov. 22. The naming committee has four options for the northeast elementary school. Stiepleman said he would also like to allow them to name the new southwest elementary school and the planned early childhood development center.
  • The Long-range Facilities Planning Committee presented a list of projects that a $50 million bond issue could fund. The district plans to ask the community to approve a bond issue for a 4-cent property tax increase in April. The committee proposed several projects, including heating and air improvements, facility upkeep and replacing trailer classrooms with buildings. The bond would also pay for a new elementary school in east Columbia.

The board meeting was held Monday in the Neil C. Aslin District Administration Building, 1818 W. Worley St.

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Sally Willis November 12, 2013 | 8:11 a.m.

Didn't we just approve a tax hike for the same things? This has to be a joke. Right? I hope that our voters won't be dumb enough to give the schools more money when they are already failing our students.

(Report Comment)
Sally Willis November 12, 2013 | 8:15 a.m.

Also can someone tell me when individuals with criminal records started being allowed to work in the schools, especially elementary schools? Am I the only one who has a problem with that fact? Apparently depending what the crime is, it's just okay.

(Report Comment)
Beth Castle November 13, 2013 | 3:44 p.m.

Hello Ms. Willis,

My name is Beth Castle and I’m one of the reporters who covered this story.

Although voters approved bond issues in 2010 and 2012, those bond issues have specific projects attached to them. Each is currently funding a new elementary school and other, school board-approved facilities projects. The new schools will relieve elementary school overcrowding on the north and south sides of town.

Overcrowding, however, is still an issue in some other parts of the district. The board follows a 10-year plan to make changes necessary to meet student population growth.

If approved, the April bond issue would pay for a new elementary school to relieve overcrowding on the east side of town. Other maintenance projects would also be included in the bond issue, but none would be the same as the projects in the 2010 and 2012 bond issues.

Thank you for your feedback. I'm still trying to find an answer to your other question about criminal records.

Beth Castle

(Report Comment)

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